THE BLOG
12/20/2014 07:15 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

15 Fabulous Make-Ahead Holiday Recipes

Jennifer Segal

When it comes to holiday entertaining, there's nothing worse than being stressed out and stuck in the kitchen while your guests enjoy the party. The key is to plan a menu that can be made almost entirely ahead of time. All of these dishes can -- and often should -- be made in advance so you can relax, kick back and enjoy the party too!

1. Cheddar & Herb Cheese Straws

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For a delicious hors d'oeuvre that can be made ahead of time, try these crisp and flaky cheese straws specked with fresh herbs and crushed red chili flakes. Though they look like bread sticks, they're actually more akin to savory pie crust or pastry. I find them wildly addictive, and just plain fun to serve. GET THE RECIPE

2. Carrot & Sweet Potato Soup

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Made with carrots, sweet potatoes, apples and honey, this savory soup with a hint of sweetness and spice is perfect for the holidays. The secret ingredient is curry powder, which doesn't give the soup an Indian flavor like you might think, but rather lends a subtle hint of autumn spice. The flavor of the soup actually improves when made a few days in advance. GET THE RECIPE

3. Onion-Braised Beef Brisket

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This is my favorite brisket recipe, and it's surprisingly simple to make. There's no wine, stock or bottled sauces added; instead, the brisket is cooked on top of a massive heap of onions, which slowly caramelize and release their juices, making a flavorful French onion soup-like braising liquid all their own. It's perfect for entertaining because it feeds a crowd and is best when made ahead of time. GET THE RECIPE

4. Cauliflower Purée

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This cauliflower purée is creamy and comforting, and just happens to taste remarkably like mashed potatoes -- really! It also has the benefit of being easier to make, healthier and lower in carbs. What's more? Unlike mashed potatoes, which need to be cooked at the last minute, cauliflower purée can be made several days ahead of time and reheated it in the microwave. GET THE RECIPE

5. French String Beans with Shallots

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This simple yet delicious side dish involves slowly cooking shallots in olive oil to coax out their natural sweetness and simmering beans until perfectly tender. It goes with just about any main course, and can be made well ahead of time and reheated in the microwave. To save time, try to find French string beans bagged and trimmed at the supermarket. GET THE RECIPE

6. Chicken Marbella

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Chicken Marbella is probably the most famous dish to come out of the beloved Silver Palate Cookbook by Julie Rosso and the late Sheila Lukins. I grew up eating it -- in fact, my mother still makes it on special occasions. It's incredibly easy to make. Most of the preparation is done the day before so all you have to do at dinnertime is add a few simple ingredients and pop it in the oven. GET THE RECIPE

7. Roasted Carrots with Thyme

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Always a favorite, these carrots are roasted in a high temperature oven until caramelized and tender-crisp -- a cooking method that intensifies their flavor and brings out their natural sweetness. You can make them ahead of time and reheat in the oven when ready to serve. GET THE RECIPE

8. Savory Sausage & Cheddar Bread Pudding

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Bread pudding is usually sweet, but it can be made savory too. This version, brimming with sweet pork sausage and sharp cheddar, is deeply flavored with a crisp, golden crust and tender, creamy interior. I love it for entertaining because it can be made ahead of time and feeds a crowd. GET THE RECIPE

9. Beef Stew with Carrots & Potatoes

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This is a classic French beef stew, otherwise known as Beef Bourguignon. The meat is seared in olive oil first, then slowly braised with garlic and onions in a wine-based broth. After a few hours in the oven, the meat becomes meltingly tender and enveloped in a rich, deeply flavored sauce. It's a comforting one pot meal, and it actually tastes best when made a day or two ahead of time. GET THE RECIPE

10. Drunken Caramel French Toast

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Part booze, part French toast, part bread pudding -- how could you go wrong? In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if you already had the recipe because such things (i.e., amazingly good, crowd pleasing, make-ahead, easy recipes) tend to get around. It's the ideal company-for-brunch dish because you assemble it the night before, let it sit in the fridge overnight, then just pop it in the oven when you're ready to eat. GET THE RECIPE

11. Double Chocolate Pavlova

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A pavlova is a cake-shaped meringue with a soft and marshmallowy center and crisp outer shell, usually topped with whipped cream and fresh fruit. In this gorgeous chocolate version, cocoa powder and bittersweet chocolate are folded into the meringue -- which makes it deliciously fudgy -- and mascarpone cheese (Italian cream cheese) is added to the whipped topping. It's a wonderfully light, gluten-free dessert that can be made up to 12 hours in advance. GET THE RECIPE

12. Baked Pears with Spiced Pomegranate Syrup

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This is a wonderful light dessert for the holidays. The ruby colored pomegranate syrup is beautiful and festive, and baked pears are always so enticing. Make it a day ahead of time and serve with Italian-style cookies, such as Almond Biscotti, Walnut & Cinnamon Biscotti, Double Chocolate Biscotti or Italian Cornmeal Cookies. GET THE RECIPE

13. Apple Cranberry Oat Crumble

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This old-fashioned dessert of warm baked apples and scarlet cranberries with a crunchy streusel topping comes from Rustic Fruit Desserts by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson. It can be made ahead of time and reheated after dinner -- and leftovers are delicious for breakfast the next day with a hot cup of coffee. GET THE RECIPE

14. Chocolate Peanut Butter Tart

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Always a crowd-pleaser, this decadent pie is like a grown-up version of a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. It's surprisingly simple to make and can be made a day ahead of time. What's not to love about that? GET THE RECIPE

15. Flourless Chocolate Almond Cake

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I've made my fair share of flourless chocolate cakes and this one, adapted from Maida Heatter's Cakes, is my all-time favorite. Made with ground almonds instead of flour and frosted with chocolate ganache, it is Heatter's most popular cake ever. Elegant, decadent and perfect for the holidays! GET THE RECIPE